Longform and function

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Longform is saying goodbye. Or at least the reading service, which has listed thousands of great articles over the last decade, is coming to an end. (The podcast continues.)

The site came up a lot when we were starting Matter, as a kind of guiding light for a journalism renaissance that started in the 2010s. Folks were challenging the notion that writing on the web had to be short and informational, pushing back on the prevailing idea that depth was something that just couldn’t fly. And Longform was a huge part of that. While it wasn’t just highlighting web-only stories, it was proof that people were doing good work online that had substance and feeling, not just interchangeable pieces of data.

We were lucky enough to have our stories appear in Longform’s end of year lists on multiple occasions, including everything from Virginia Hughes on 23 and Me to Josh Dean on the internet’s insatiable desire for crime, or from Matthieu Aikins reporting from Syria or Taffy Brodesser-Akner writing about Britney.

But it was inspiration and discovery that made me love Longform the most. It rekindled my love of some publications, exposed me to others, and… well, it helped sift the New York Times Magazine, New Yorker, and other stalwarts for the stories really worth investing time in. 

Three random stories that I found there and meant something: Michelle Dean’s Buzzfeed story on Munchausen’s by proxy; Willy Staley’s CalSunday profile of Thrasher’s Jake Phelps; Anna Wiener’s breakthrough N+1 piece on Silicon Valley.  

Keeping those recommendations going is hard work. (I stopped my personal attempt, If You Only, a few years back because even filtering for a single daily read was too much: the Twitter account has since lapsed.) And curating for 10 years is a feat of dedication. 

Not everything lasts forever, and it’s worth celebrating those things that end gracefully. So here’s to everyone who worked on Longform, featured in it, or otherwise benefited from it. That was a good run.

Further reading:

Nieman Lab: Longform will no longer recommend nonfiction articles around the web. Readers are bummed (2022)
The return of If You Only (2015)
Snowfallen (2013)

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